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March 19, 2010 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Newton, MA: What not to miss?

We are moving to Newton (Upper Falls) next month. We already live nearby so we have a mild familiarity with the town, but if you are a resident or native, tell us what cool stuff there is to do there, where to eat, shops, recreate (with kids), etc.
posted by mds35 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I drove by this place a lot on the way to BC. That whole block is filled with expensive looking clothing stores, also.
posted by mkb at 7:45 AM on March 19, 2010

Check out this local online paper. It also has a blog attached to it. If you have children...
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:55 AM on March 19, 2010

There's a road race that's passing through town one week from today.
posted by dchase at 8:06 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Echo Bridge is in Upper Falls.

The Blue Ribbon BBQ, some of the best barbecue in Boston*, is in West Newton.

The Keltic Crust, also in West Newton, has the best damn scones in the universe, among other things.

*Which is probably like saying "The best lobster in Iowa", but it's all we have.
posted by bondcliff at 8:12 AM on March 19, 2010

Its a bit south of Upper falls, but I'm a big fan of The Farm Grill & Rotisserie. The Charles River Canoe and Kayak rental place is right down the street, if the kids are a bit older.
posted by nowoutside at 8:14 AM on March 19, 2010

Both resident and native, here. I positively hated the city growing up, but now that I've moved back there, I think it's great. Funny how that works.

One of the great things about the town is main branch public library. Great selection of books as well as music and DVD's. They really do an excellent job there.

There are also no shortage of parks and playgrounds for kids. While there are too many for me to list (although Cabot Park was one of my favorites growing up! They've changed it quite a bit, however) this list from the Parks & Recreation dept might be of some use. Unfortunately, having no kids myself, I can't really rell you where the hot spots are for children, but the local newspaper (provided free to all residents) and it's accompanying website are really pretty good and they provide excellent listings of the goings on around town for both kids and adults.

As for restaurants, Newton is very slowly coming into it's own in this area. Some favorites of mine and my wife include Blue Ribbon BBQ - so incredibly good that my southern belle wife has (rather blasphemously) said it rivals many places in her native Tennessee, Johnny's Luncheonette - excellent comfort food with an old school 1950's feel, 51 Lincoln for slightly more upscale, Bokx 109 - a great steakhouse, Acapulco's for cheap but decent Mexican (recently moved down the street to Needham) - incidentally, El Pelon Taqueria, formerly in the Fenway, will be reopening just steps from the Newton/Brighton border (and just down the street from me - yay!) on Commonwealth Ave near Boston College - and both Amarin of Thailand and Coconut Cafe for thai food. Oh, and don't forget J.P. Licks in Newton Centre. Yelp Boston is also a very big help when looking for eats in Newton, too, but just make sure you do a search in Newton's villages (Chestnut Hill, Newton Upper Falls, Newton Highlands, etc...) in order to return the best results. Just searching under Newton doesn't bring up a lot of entries.

In terms of shops - Newton has all your standards. Newton Centre is slowly coming around. For years it was nothing more than a bunch of expensive salons and high end boutiques. Now the normal people seem to be getting a hold of it, and it seems much better for it. While there are plenty of independent Mom & Pop shops around, none of them come to mind at the moment, which is frustrating. I can recommend Newtonville Books as a great independent bookstore, however. If more come to mind, I'll post again.

I think you'll find the public schools are excellent (should you choose that route, and the mess that was the construction of Newton North notwithstanding) and the city services quite adequate as well. The city is facing a bit of a financial crisis at the moment, so you may see some cuts in local services, but those have yet to really be defined (new mayor and all...) Lastly, the people, by and large, are fantastic. The city absolutely has a reputation for being full of snobby elites and while I can say with certainty that description is exaggerated, there is unquestionably an air of entitlement among some of Newton's residents that can be off-putting (and was one of the reasons I hated the town growing up - but my then adolescent mind made much more of it than was actually there.) All in all, however, I enjoy it here - especially since I've had the opportunity to live in other areas, and now have more perspective. Welcome, and feel free to MeFi Mail me if you have any further questions.
posted by Rewind at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Harris Cyclery. If you need a bike or bike work done, go there.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:33 AM on March 19, 2010

For nicer eats, Lumiere in Newton Center is one of the better restaurants in the greater Boston area.
posted by seppyk at 8:51 AM on March 19, 2010

No idea. Let me know when you find out.

(will be following this thread to get ideas)

It's very pretty, and there are lots of bike trails. I plan to get acquainted with those this spring. Sadly, all my friends live in outer Canada (like, outside I-495, geez!) so I don't spend a lot of time hanging out IN Newton itself. Seconding the library; it's my second office a lot of the time. Harris Cyclery is right down the street from me (02465 reprazent), and they're definitely good. Blue Ribbon is right down the street from them (and it's small, so if you can't find a seat, you're always welcome to come here and eat as long as you bring some for me =D).

The Trader Joe's is not far from there, as well. It's nice to have all these amenities walking distance from my house. =)
posted by Eideteker at 9:34 AM on March 19, 2010

With all the great food places recommended above (the hive mind has named most of the worthwhile spots), you might not have room left for dessert, but Cabot's Ice Cream has a friendly atmosphere, good diner fare, and ridiculous (in a good way) sundaes.
posted by dust of the stars at 9:53 AM on March 19, 2010

I lived in Upper Falls and still go back frequently. Here are some tips:

Dunn Gaherin's is a friendly pub on Elliot Street. I don't think the food's great, but the atmosphere is nice, the bar is pleasant and the beer is cold. There's another pub-style place over in Highlands (name escapes me) which is always packed and merely decent. It's nice to have a bar that you can walk to.

If you want Mexican, Sol Azteca in Newton Centre is the way to go. There's an Acapulcos in Upper Falls on Needham St, but it's an Acapulcos, so I don't need to tell you that it's pretty bad.

The Indian restaurant in Newton Centre is the place to go for Indian. It's not amazing, but it's good enough.

The Railway Cafe on Chestnut has very nice baked goods to take out.

The best local pizza is Sweet Tomatoes in Newton Centre. Papa Ginos is also on Needham St. There's a Greek-run pizza place on Chestnut. They're friendly and the sandwiches are good, but if "greek-run" and "pizza" conjure up a specific image, well that's exactly the kind of pizza that you'll get.

Grocery Shopping is a bit of a PITA. The Star Market on Comm Ave is close by, and so is the Shaw's in Chestnut Hill. They both suck. We went to the Hannford in Waltham or the massive Stop N' Shop on route 9, Natick. It was the most unpleasant part of living there. Trader Joes in Needham is convenient, though.

Upper Falls Discount Liquor on Needham St. is truly exceptional. Great local packie. The package store next to the pizza place is okay, but I don't think there's much reason to go with such alternative nearby.

more if I think of something.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:47 AM on March 19, 2010

bondcliff, there's no need to apologize for Blue Ribbon. It would fit in without problem here in Atlanta; its only "problem" is that it's pan-regional. This is not a problem in greater Boston; I've sat at the BR counter more than once in a line of six people homesick for barbecue from six different regions, and everyone eating happily.

Other than that, I second what mayor curley said about good places to eat, and the Peet's in Newton Centre is the easiest for parking of any of the Boston-area Peet's.
posted by catlet at 11:10 AM on March 19, 2010

Grocery Shopping is a bit of a PITA. The Star Market on Comm Ave is close by, and so is the Shaw's in Chestnut Hill.

Just wanted to comment on this. If I'm thinking of the same place Mayor Curley is, the Shaws in Chestnut Hill is actually a Star Market (on Rte 9 - same company, just different names, and I've never been sure why. Think Shaw's is union and Star is not, but who the hell knows...), and has actually only recently reopened after a major renovation. It is a VAST improvement over what was formerly there - the previous incarnation being a dirt ridden dump. It's still a bit smaller than your average super market, however, and might not have the selection that, say, a Super Stop & Shop has, but I still think it's pretty good (Mayor Curley may be speaking about it with the new renovation in mind, in which case, I'll shutup.)

Oh, and he was spot on with Sol Azteca. Can't believe I forgot to mention it.
posted by Rewind at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2010

I'm in 02458 and am generally tempted to say the best thing about Newton is the short drive to Boston. Cynicism aside, lots of good advice here esp re Lumiere and Sol Azteca. Rice Valley on Washington Street is great for Chinese takeout. And the green spaces everywhere are superb for kids - lots of parks to kick a ball around or play tennis. Newton New Arts Center has great kids' classes and nthing Newtonville Books.

I would say the schools are extremely overrated and outclassed by Brookline, Harvard,
Sharon, etc. The high schools are excellent for the right kid, but the mothers are extremely involved so be prepared to get in the scrum or shell out for private school.
posted by mozhet at 3:56 PM on March 19, 2010

Few years back I stayed at the Days Inn in Newton and was astounded to find that the bar there, one night a week, was the home spot for perhaps the most unattractive set of cross-dressing men I had ever seen. Mustaches and ball gowns seemed to be the theme that night. I can't recall which night of the week it was, but it was was one of the more entertaining bar cheeseburger late-night dinners/inadvertent floor shows I've ever had. If only they had karaoke'd.
posted by umberto at 10:17 AM on March 20, 2010

rewind-- I hadn't visited since the renovation. Sounds like it's much better.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2010

UF has the cheapest name-brand gas in town. Negoshian's Sunoco at the corner of Elliot and Route 9 is crazy cheap and crazy crowded at peak times. Plan accordingly, and if you're going to make that turn often be aware that it's often clogged up by people trying to get in the gas station.

The Midas just over the border in Needham (on whatever Needham st. is called once you cross the Charles) is honest, reasonable and fast for the type of car repairs they do.

Do you use a Supercuts-style place for yours or kids haircuts? Haircuts Ltd on Needham St. is the best in breed of that kind of place. I still go there when I can.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:46 PM on March 20, 2010

The New England Mobile Book Fair & the China Fair are next to each other, and only a few minutes from Newton Centre. *swoon* And I surely do miss the Book Fair!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:09 AM on March 22, 2010

The New England Mobile Book Fair & the China Fair are next to each other, and only a few minutes from Newton Centre.

Good point. Both on Needham Street. And the greek restaurant at the end of the street (heading towards Centre) is good for a "place an order/wait for your number" type of place.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:53 PM on March 23, 2010

Thanks, folks!

The move is next week.

-Matt Lokken
posted by mds35 at 9:48 AM on March 31, 2010

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